Reviews / Review: Rhapsody in da big kirk

Deirdre Hayward's new choir Veev - Photos: Chris Brown

YOU have to think three times before travelling from Hillswick to Lerwick for a night out these days what with the price of fuel…but Saturday night at the big kirk was definitely worth the journey.

Shetland Community Orchestra were brave to perform the week after the RSNO came to the isles to show us all how exciting a big classical ensemble can sound.


A small community orchestra made up entirely of volunteers could never compete with experienced professionals, but what they lacked in experience they more than made up for in enthusiasm and sheer verve.

Playing to a packed house they started the evening with no less than Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, a formidable piece of work for anyone to take on let alone such a small orchestra.

It was after the interval though that they really hit their stride with Prokoviev’s Montagues and Capulets from Romeo and Juliet, Suite No 2 – better known as the theme tune for The Apprentice – in which the size of the orchestra in no way diminished the power they managed to muster.

Guest Dick Lee swings out the opening notes of Rhapsody in Blue with soloist Harris Playfair at the piano.

Then, to set the scene for the evening’s main performance, Deidre Hayward’s singing group Veev evoked America in the early 20th century with a series of songs by George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Josef Myrow.

The harmonies were faultless, the voices were beautiful, but such sensual songs could have used a little bit more…swing?

The main highlight was billed as Gershwin’s hugely challenging Rhapsody in Blue and any doubts about Shetland’s musicians ability to handle the piece were swept away by guest clarinettist Dick Clark as soon as he wailed out that famous introduction with all the inflexion it required.

Then when Harris Playfair, who has done so much to support music in Shetland, hit those ivories we knew we were in for a very special treat. As he charged through this acrobatic piece I was not the only one to be awestruck by his ability – never thought I would hear piano playing like that in a Shetland kirk. He seemed to give extra gusto to the rest of the orchestra too.


The standing ovation was thoroughly deserved – not even the RSNO managed that at the big concert at the Clickimin – as was the hearty applause that followed the finale from Pirates of the Caribbean.

Congratulations to everyone involved in this venture and especially to conductor Nigel Hayward for bringing it all together so successfully. Let’s hope that more of Shetland’s apparently bottomless fund of musical talent joins in for future performances.

And where else would you get tea and homebakes after an evening’s recital like this?

As someone brought up on rock concerts who had never experienced a live classical performance until this month, I am a convert. Encore!